Simon looked around the room and continued.
“I grew up in a happy family. I didn’t find school easy, but you could give me any handiwork and I was in my element – from changing a plug to digging a post hole; from moulding clay to painting a picture or a wall. My parents had their doubts about me taking this any more seriously than just a hobby. For them, the piece of paper saying I had seven or eight GCSE’s was the goal. We had long discussions. I never argued with them. But I stood my ground.
“Your lesson, Dean, made me realise I had to follow my dream and work with my hands. I went home and sat with my family speaking to them about my dreams. I told them I wouldn’t be happy working behind a desk. I had to be creative. Later my sister told me I spoke with such passion she was not surprised Dad agreed to let me investigate some options. I researched for hours and found a degree in design which would enable me to be creative and still produce the piece of paper my father so wanted me to have.
“So the work began. I needed ‘A’ levels, and I knew I would have to work hard. I gave up my social life to focus on my studies. I managed to get the required exam results for university entrance, for the course I had chosen. I started at university, but soon realised I needed to do more practical work. The course I had enrolled in, involved a great deal of theory such as the history of art. This was not for me so I started investigating other options.
“I found a local craftsman, a maker of fine furniture, who agreed to let me work for him during the holidays. I began by sweeping floors. But one day I found a small chunk of wood on the floor and noticed what it was hiding within its form. I asked my supervisor if I could have it. He looked at me as if I was crazy, but he agreed. That evening I took it home and whittled it down into an ear of corn, just like the one Bezalel had made. It was still raw when I took it in the next morning, hoping to fine sand it during my lunch break. My supervisor noticed me working on this piece of wood. He came over to me and asked to see what I was doing. I thought his amazement was out of all proportion when he took it to the master craftsman to show him. That afternoon I was given a piece of wood, a mock pillar for a fancy dresser. I was asked to carve it so it could be used. I saw a piece of twisted rope within its form and released the image hidden within it.
“From then on, I was given pieces of fancy carving to do. By the end of the holiday, they wanted to give me an apprenticeship. The craftsman came with me to speak to my parents. They asked me to finish my first year at university as it had already been paid for. I would then be able to make my decision so I was sure I was making the right one. We agreed to this. I left university that June and have never looked back. I am now privileged to work in a place where beautiful things are made. In my spare time, during the evenings, I have started to carve busts of children from photographs. This work is becoming more popular as word spreads.
“I dream of having my own workshop sometime soon. My son, Thomas, is already carving and I would love to be able to hand over such a business to him one day. I think my faith in God enables me to see the beauty in a piece of wood, whether it is a simple chair leg, a face, a creature, or anything else. I have been gifted with hands which can reflect the beauty of the world around me.
“I have made church furniture – candlesticks, an altar and its rail, and once, a chalice and platen out of olive wood which is the most wonderful thing I have ever carved.
“Now, you may be wondering how this links in with the relevance of Bezalel’s story in regard to Jesus. Did you know the things Bezalel made are all forerunners of the items in the New Testament we cherish today?
“For example, the bronze laver contained water for the ceremonial washing and cleansing of hands. It points forward to baptism when the believer is buried with Christ to sin and rises to life as Christ did for the glory of God.
The menorah, or candlestick, was the source of light in the Tabernacle and directs us to Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
The table Bezalel carved with meticulous care represents the one we use every time we share Holy Communion. When a meal was shared in Old Testament times it signified peace between those who shared it. When Christ came, he instituted peace between God and people. He gave us the means for this to happen in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine which we do every time we celebrate Holy Communion. It is a reminder to us of Christ’s sacrifice and a declaration to God and one another of the peace Christ offers.
The symbolism is remarkable, and it all points to Jesus. My heart sang as I began to understand the relevance of the Old Testament. Please don’t ever let anyone tell you it has no place in today’s world.
“I get a bit passionate about it.”
The maître d’ knocked on the glass door of the lounge and came in. Simon smiled at him and nodded, inviting him to speak.
“I just want to let you know that lunch is ready when you are.”
“Thank you so much,” Simon said. “Lunch sounds like a good idea,”
“But before we go into lunch,” Sally said, “I am sure I am speaking for everyone when I say thank you to you, Simon, for summing up all the stories. It’s wonderful to know they point us to Jesus, and so interesting to learn how each one of us has been affected and changed by the Old Testament. I agree with you, Simon, the Old Testament is as relevant to those who follow Christ as the New Testament is. I’ve learnt a great deal this weekend.”
“Now I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m hungry! Let’s go into lunch!”
She led the group out of the lounge into the dining room to enjoy the generous meal which had been prepared for them.